News of the long campaign against the proposed Javelin Park incinerator was read by many visitors to this site in 2013 and 2015.
This year, campaigners obtained a copy of the contract, after using freedom of Information rules, and the monitoring officer at Gloucestershire County Council has now been asked to investigate whether the leader and his deputy exaggerated the cost of backing out of a plan to commission a £500m waste incinerator.
A resident of the county was contacted and replied that she had read about the discovery in the Gloucester Citizen, which republished an account from Gloucestershire Live, but neither account may now be found online. A search reveals no mainstream media reference to the subject.
Public Sector Blogs drew on an account by Tim Davies, co-founder of Open Data Services Co-operative, co-director of Practical Participation, affiliate at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society:
“The claim made to council on 18th Feb 2015 that it could cost £60m – £100m to cancel the contract appears to be based on calculations from officers, and/or Ernst and Young which have not been published by the authority (perhaps another EIR or FOIA request will be needed here…). The Tribunal ruling refers in Paragraph 27 to a document from Ernst and Young presented to Cabinet in November 2015. However campaigners reading the unredacted contract cannot find the substantiation for the cancellation costs being so high before the facility is operational. It appears breakage before the plant is in operation could cost substantially less than the break-points once it is up and running – and possibly even lower than the £30m the Council has subsequently committed from reserves to cover shortfalls in the project”.
Community R4C, a community-led project promoting a circular economy in Gloucestershire, which published local media accounts of the recent discovery here, has now gone to the council’s external auditor, Grant Thornton. With the help of the Environmental Law Foundation, a case has been put together which, it believes, shows the Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) contract is not value-for-money. It has also approached the Competition and Markets Authority, claiming that Gloucestershire’s contract breaks competition law.
A contributor to Private Eye magazine reports that environmental law expert Raymond Purdy, a senior fellow at Oxford University, has complained about the way Gloucestershire council leader Mark Hawthorne and deputy Ray Theodoulou presented financial details to a crucial meeting. As Tim Davies noted above, it was claimed that to opt out of the contract already signed with UBB would potentially cost £100m.
ELF elaborates: “The contract, originally signed in 2013 and then renegotiated in 2015, for the £500 million incinerator was awarded to Urbaser Balfour Beatty although details on pricing and information on termination were only made public following an Information Tribunal ruling in March this year (2017). In light of this information, and after seeking assistance from Counsel through ELF member, Duncan Sinclair of 39 Essex Chambers, R4C lodged a complaint with the CMA on 21st March that the Javelin Park contract breaches the Competition Act 1998. R4C believe that the exclusive contract is anti-competitive and prevents technological innovation, imposing a huge financial burden for years to come. They state that:
- the price paid by GCC for waste disposal for a minimum amount is 10 times the next tranche, thereby creating ‘de facto’ exclusivity and foreclosing the market for waste treatment (including eliminating incentives to recycle/move higher up the waste hierarchy);
- there are excessive termination costs thereby enforcing the ‘lock-in’; and
- the 25-year contract prevents newer, cheaper and more efficient/environmentally friendly alternatives developing to the detriment of consumers in terms of not only price but also their interest in the environment (both local and more broadly).
If the complaint is upheld there would be serious consequences for Gloucestershire County Council and the residents they are elected to represent.
The latest SNJ news about the Javelin Park incinerator from Stroud in Gloucestershire reminds us that Gloucestershire County Council’s planning committee is to decide next month whether or not to award planning permission to Urbaser Balfour Beatty for the mass burn facility, adding:
“The contract for the plant has been drawn up in such a way that if councillors were to refuse permission for the facility, GCC would be liable to pay multinational waste firm Urbaser up to £15 million in compensation, meaning the authority has a direct financial interest in approving the scheme.”
The article asks Gloucestershire County Council to contact the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to call in the planning application and place it before an independent inspector, who will be less exposed to the political and financial pressures faced by members of the authority’s planning committee. This would restore trust in the process which was diminished when the case officer in charge of the application was replaced after voicing his intention to recommend it for refusal or deferral.
Another article added a link to an online government e-petition and published an impressive list of organisations, local authorities and individuals who, together with the protest group GlosVAIN, have either already written to the communities secretary asking him to ‘call-in’ the incinerator application or have expressed their strong and unequivocal opposition to it:
Local authorities–– Stroud Town Council – Stroud District Council
– Stonehouse Town Council
– Nailsworth Town Council
– Painswick Parish Council
– Haresfield Parish Council
– Moreton Valence Parish Council
– Standish Parish Council
– Uckington Parish Council
– Bishops Cleeve Parish Council
– Leckhampton Parish Council
– Randwick Parish Council
– Churchdown Parish Council .
– Natural England
– The Cotswold Conservation Board
– English Heritage
– The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE)
– Friends of the Earth
– Gloucestershire Vale Against Incineration (GlosVAIN)
– Gloucestershire Against Incineration (GlosAIN)
– Safety in Waste and Rubbish Disposal (SWARD)
– Blooms Garden Centre
– Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood
– Former Stroud MP David Drew
– Jonathon Porritt (Former director of Friends of the Earth and co-founder of Forum for the Future)
Javelin Park 2: Gloucestershire County Council’s PFI incinerator deal with Urbaser Balfour Beatty: case officer removed & consultants brought in
PCU has recorded Gloucestershire County Council’s desire to build a £500 million Urbaser Balfour Beatty Energy from Waste incinerator at Javelin Park in Haresfield. It is reported that 103 incinerator sites were licensed in 2010, that in 2011 DEFRA had 20 more applications from large power companies and that a large number of government advisers are involved in the expensive and remunerative incinerator PFI deals.
Highlighting growing concerns that there will be too many incinerators in the UK by 2015 and that they will severely hamper recycling, Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood tabled Early Day Motion 383, . . . to read on click here.
Opposition to this plan by residents, opposition groups and local authorities has been well documented in the Stroud News & Journal by journalist Chris Warne.
Update: the council removes the case officer from the Javelin Park application and brings in a team of consultants – at taxpayers’ expense
GCG says that this – done without informing a lead member of its planning committee – is perfectly normal practice, but the SNJ’s editorial comment is: “There is a school of management that keeps on asking the same question until the right answer appears”.
Geoff Wheeler, the leader of Stroud District Council, has now instructed officers to write to Eric Pickles at the Department for Communities and Local Government, asking him to ‘call in’ the plans as he did with the Kings Lynn incinerator application in August.
GCG’s Lib-Dems, supported by the Labour Group, have separately called in the bid for extra scrutiny but the County Council hopes to determine the application in the New Year.
SouthWest Business reported last Friday that planning experts at Stroud District Council have warned that the £500million scheme to build a waste-to-energy plant at Javelin Park, supported by Gloucestershire County Council and incinerator firm Urbaser Balfour Beatty, could be thrown out by a Government inspector because of the impact it could have on the environment.
Irregularities in procedure
Stroud’s Councillor Marjoram points out irregularities in procedure: the council selected a contractor for the construction before planning permission had been granted, signing a contract with a penalty clause which will charge them £15 million if they renege on the agreement or don’t get planning permission.
Apply the precautionary principle
Ian Richens, spokesman for the campaigning group GlosVAIN, grimly reminds all that in the 1970s asbestos was similarly presented as posing no danger to health and adds:
“Let us not make the same mistake again”.#
United Kingdom Without Incineration Network
UKWIN has nearly 100 groups campaigning for sustainable waste management and against waste incineration. They say that the incineration of household waste:
- depresses recycling and wastes resources,
- releases greenhouse gases, and is
- often forced through against strong public opposition.
- create toxic emissions and hazardous ash, and therefore pose significant health risks.
Electoral reaction: in Kings Lynn, Labour’s Alex Kempe won a county council seat from the Conservatives. Their majority of 272 at the last election was transformed into a 400 majority for Labour. Ms Kemp said that the issue of the proposed incinerator had a major bearing on the outcome. The County Council’s decision to award a contract for the construction of an incinerator has been ‘called in’ – there will be a full public inquiry in January 2013.